Sometimes, despite best intentions, distancing is just not possible. In India, not only are there legions of people and cars, there are the ubiquitous Holy Cows. This is not just hyperbole, the cows in India are very sacred, enjoying a high-ranking in the Hindu faith. The cow is seen as a maternal figure and a symbol of the divine bounty of earth. In fact, Lord Krishna, a major Hindu deity grew up as a cow herder. Krishna also goes by the names Govinda and Gopala, which mean “friend and protector of cows.” The cow is revered above all animals (and some people) and to eat its meat or kill one is not only illegal but also produces some extremely bad karma. In one accident a truck killed a calf. The driver not only will had to pay the owner of the calf some major rupees he also had to enjoin a holy man (very expensive) to perform extensive rituals to help assuage his sin.
But back to the Holy Cows. Similar to many countries, the cows in India are given free rein to roam where they wish, ostensibly to find food to eat and eventually return “home” at sunset. On of their favorite hangouts, despite having no fields of grass to forage is on or along the roads.
Why are the cows seemingly risking limb and life to be so close to motorized vehicles? One could say that they have discovered that the diesel fumes help to relieve them of mosquitoes and other stinging, biting insects. But there is another reason. The cows get high on the fumes. That’s right – these cows are stoned.
Say hello to The Dudes of India.
However, the high of these holy cows is sometimes anything but mellow. While sometime seeming impossible to find an area that is not inundates with theses cows (that’s me passing within a few feet):
It is extremely important to keep as far away as possible – particular when there are two cows who might suddenly break into fighting:
There was another surprising close encounter with a creature that ordinarily should not be anywhere near you:
I was actually offered a seat on a cushion just behind this cobra but opted out, not wanting to tempt fate any further, despite being told that due to the cold weather, the cobra was “sluggish.”
I certainly was not comfortable with this last encounter. I have mentioned in the past that despite my love of animals and nature in general, I have a abhorrence to simians. I am not sure why I developed this aversion, but it is so severe that during my advertising career I locked my office door shut when Jim Fowler, the host of the updated Wild Kingdom TV show was visiting looking for advertiser support. He brought a chimpanzee with him. I was terrified.
Unfortunately for me monkeys are plentiful in India and like the cow enjoy exalted status. Hanuman is the God of Wisdom, Strength, Courage, Devotion and Self-Discipline. He is the son of Vayu, the god of the wind, and Anjana, a celestial nymph and was a principle character in the Rāmāyana, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and important text of Hinduism, the other being the Mahābhārata. In the epic Hanumans comes to the aid of Rama, a legendary prince of Ayodhya city in the kingdom of Kosala.
Despite this, I get the willies when near any monkey, but it was impossible not to have a number of close encounters in India where they roam freely, begging for food or if rebuffed, stealing some,
However, in fairness, Hanuman was in the shape of a Langur, which is not actually a monkey but rather an ape. In fact it is the only ape found in India. I came upon them in the Panna Tiger Reserve, and with some distance did enjoy their expressive faces:
One special moment, which appeared to be an elder giving a baby a lesson was endearing:
Sometimes going outside your comfort zone can bring profound experiences.